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Lay Your Body Down (And Don't Let Go)

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She was tired of the asylum, tired of what she could and couldn't do, of how Dr. Ellis kept saying that Poppa was dead and that she needed to come to terms with it and how grief affected things, like they knew how she felt. Well, of course he was dead; she'd seen him, his body, curled up and unmoving. Just because you weren't alive didn't mean you weren't around any more. Poppa had proved that.

Fucking psych. The whole place was full of them, psychs and interns and orderlies and other patients. Some of 'em were there because they wouldn't eat; some were there because they tried to kill themselves.

She understood the killing themselves part. Sometimes, the only thing that made sense was killing herself; at least that way she wouldn't be stuck in this place because of course nobody saw dead people, except in movies, except when they were themselves dead. It was the depressed people that could be the bravest, because it was hard to be afraid of death when you made up your mind not to be. Some of 'em were like zombies, though, because that's what the damn illness did to people. You didn't feel like doing much in that state, just hiding in bed and shuffling around and maybe eating because they made you do it, and maybe crying at the psych if the pills weren't strong enough, and besides, the ones that worked took weeks to do it, and the rest made you zombies anyway. She didn't cry, because it was stupid to cry, but she knew why they did it. Because of the pills.

The pills. Oh, she got her pills, all right. She got her pills and everything was supposed to be fine. Except Aunt Ulla never wanted her out of the place, so even if she was "fine", she was sure that her aunt would find some excuse to put her back.

Because her aunt didn't understand things. She didn't understand the energy, the ability to do anything. Anything she could sew, she would, if the psychs would let her near a needle.

Of course, they wouldn't. "Violent," they said. "Suicide risk," they said. Playing with dolls was fine, coloring was fine. Being creative was fine and if she wanted to work with crayons until they were all nubs, especially the purple ones, that was fine. But needles and things like Lucia crowns? No way. Some days, she had to be content with crayons, because the drugs didn't always work and she had plans to make. Besides, it made them happy, the bastards, to run hers and everyone else's life, like they were some kind of false gods!

Making plans was the best, though she had to keep things in her head. Poppa was there too, giving her advice when she could see him. Or hear him, in some cases, some times when she didn't dare open her eyes because they would know something was up, in the early morning hours. Sometimes she'd stay up all night, curled up so they'd think she was asleep, and sometimes, after the drugs wore off, she heard him.

It was like those people who had voices in their heads. Aural hallucinations, she'd heard the psychs say when they thought they were out of earshot. Thinking that they were there to take over the world or the devil spoke to them, or whatever. She was sure that the psychs thought they'd heard everything around the place. Dead fathers were nothing to them, just another illness. Just another thing going wrong in another patient's head.

She was nothing to them. Just another stream of revenue, something that they'd seen before, and the hallucination – well, maybe it was a hallucination, because the pills shut him up, didn't they? It was like he went away, or her access to him did, when the pills took effect, when the meds hit.

She wouldn't have taken the pills, except she had to, in the place. They watched her carefully and made sure she was medicated, sane, except they didn't treat her as sane. If she was out of that place, she could get away without taking her pills, her meds, the meds that stopped her from seeing Poppa.

But because Aunt Ulla didn't want her, and because the psychs looked at her and thought she was some grieving kid that couldn't let go, was a suicide risk, saw things she shouldn't, she was there, like the people who belonged. But she didn’t. She was tired of the same, regular routine they kept, the same bland things she could do, the whole assumption that if they supervised every moment of her life then things would be okay.

She didn't know how long she could stand the place. Until Aunt Ulla's money ran out, or they thought that she wasn't a danger to herself anymore. Because she'd been here before, in this place. Tried to walk out, tried to charm her way out, and sometimes it had worked. Because there was no way she should be there, and neither should most of the people that were there. Yeah, some of them were a danger to themselves, but not all were.

Passing two women her Poppa’s age, one woman muttering about her cigarettes while the other cried on the cigarette woman's shoulder, she wondered if she could talk her way out again. Because the pills worked, after all. She couldn't hear her Poppa's voice; she was stable, steady, ready to face the world. If she didn't mention Poppa or his voice to Aunt Ulla, she knew everything would be all right. Except it wouldn't.

Things would go okay for a while. She'd pretend she fit in with the family, and Aunt Ulla would go on as if nothing had happened, as if she'd never been in the hospital at all, never spent hours with therapists, never done anything wrong. Didn't have dark skin, wasn't the result of her Finnish father ending up with her American mother, didn’t have anything strange about her.

But it never lasted. Nothing ever lasted, even the summer cabins by the lakeside. And certainly, anything that would make her think she was normal didn't last, because she wasn't normal. Soon enough Aunt Ulla would tire of her and back she would go.

Maybe, when she got out of there, she'd run. Run to her mother, who was in Texas. Her mother wouldn't make her take her pills, or maybe she would, but it was better than staying with Aunt Ulla and being sent back to this place, again. And she'd have Poppa back, if she could talk her mother out of making her take her pills.

She was so getting out of this place, going to where someone understood, and even if they didn't, it wasn't here. It wasn't with Aunt Ulla. She’d run to her mother, she’d run, she’d hide, she’d make herself wanted and she’d never have to go to another hospital again.

Because she wasn’t staying. She wasn’t going to go through this time after time. She didn’t have to, and she knew that now. She’d get free of this place, she was going to her mother, and this time, only she would run her life.